Best premium cars

Fancy a car that makes you feel good with its upmarket cabin, super-comfy seats or slick tech? We've rounded up the best used premium cars

James Wilson
May 17, 2022

The best premium cars lay on the feel-good factor. They make you relax when you slide inside, want to turn around when you walk away and lock the car and make life feel just that little bit better. It's like the difference between a limp slice of supermarket own-brand white bread and a chunky wedge of white farmhouse loaf. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the cheaper option, but sometimes it's nice to splash out with something special.

'Premium' can mean very different things to different people, but essentially to be a proper premium model, a car needs to have a plush cabin, a sporty feel or plenty of sophisticated in-car tech. Many drivers like premium cars that feel a cut above the rest in terms of how they're built. Others, meanwhile, value sleek or sporty looks or having something with enough power to overtake cars ahead, four-at-a-time. The premium cars below cover all of these bases.

Below are eight cars that are upmarket, sleek, desirable and powerful enough to make each journey enjoyable - whether you prefer to cruise around calmy or love being able to overtake easily or effortlessly zoom up to speed on sliproads. As variety is the spice of life, we have included saloons, an estate car, a sporty coupe and a number of SUVs.

Although premium cars do normally command a financial premium, upmarket cars are often not as pricey as you might expect. The models below can be scooped up second-hand for somewhere between £15,000 and £40,000, with finance options available to cut these figures into affordable monthly payments.

Premium cars

1. Jaguar XE

Our pick Jaguar XE 2.0d R-Dynamic HSE
Used deals from £11,990

The Jaguar XE needs to tempt drivers away from the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4 - three of the most popular compact premium cars on the planet. All things considered, the Jaguar makes a strong case for itself. This is because the XE looks very stylish and is fun to drive on faster 60mph roads thanks to it being able to nip around corners with plenty of composure.

In terms of premiumness, the most upmarket models are those made after Jaguar refreshed the XE in 2019. One of the biggest improvements was the introduction of something Jaguar refers to as the ‘Touch Pro Duo’. This system consists of two screens, one for cabin heating and cooling controls and the other for the media system. There is also a digital driver's panel available. The latter replaces traditional dials for showing information such as speed with configurable digital displays.

JAGUAR XE BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Lexus RX

Our pick Lexus RX 450h Takumi
Used deals from £24,390

Lexus has become known for making premium hybrids and the RX is the largest premium hybrid SUV it produces. There are two types of RX; the standard model and the RX L. L versions are longer and have two extra seats in the boot area. These may appeal to those in need of seven seats but space in the rearmost row is limited, so they are best for smaller children. It is not uncommon for seven-seaters to have tight rearmost seats, with only huge cars like the Land Rover Discovery having third rows that are large enough for adults.

The self-charging hybrid RX uses a 3.5-litre petrol engine alongside a high-voltage battery pack and electric motor. This large engine and electric assistance in itself is a premium feature, as the majority of cars use a far smaller engine, regardless of whether they are a hybrid or not.

This large engine is smooth and sounds more sporty than those in smaller hybrids. Adding to the RX’s upmarket vibe, it has a sumptuous interior with high-quality materials used for key areas like the seats and steering wheel. Throw in Lexus's impressive track record for reliability and there is a lot to like about the RX.

LEXUS RX BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Land Rover Discovery

Our pick Land Rover Discovery 3.0 SDV6 HSE Luxury
Used deals from £33,799

Premium does not always mean big and big does not always mean premium. In the case of the Land Rover Discovery, however, the two very much go together. As mentioned above, the Discovery has a large enough cabin that adults can use the third row of seats and still be comfortable. Room in the back row can be maximised by sliding the middle row of seats forward. This is a nice touch, as not all large cars include the ability to move the middle row of seats to get the best balance of space in the two rearmost rows.

If we were to criticise the Discovery, it would be that new models are expensive but opting for a second-hand model can mitigate this somewhat. Even so, the Discovery offers drivers a lot in return for the money. The design of the car includes plenty of premium touches so it looks expensive (such as large alloy wheels, LED lights and trims that contrast with the body colour). In addition, the driving experience is very refined in that the Discovery smoothly glides over imperfections in the road, making it feel very serene from behind the wheel.

LAND ROVER DISCOVERY BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Volvo S60

Our pick Volvo S60 B5 (P) Inscription Plus
Used deals from £23,390

It is easy to miss the Volvo S60, as alternatives such as the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4 are so well known and popular. However, there are other options that appeal if you're after a slightly different premium car. These include the Jaguar XE and the most recent Volvo S60 itself. While the Jaguar targets those who enjoy being behind the wheel and who want a bit of sportiness, the S60 focuses on those after sleek Scandinavian design and comfort.

If comfort is a top priority for you, then it's worth staying away from models with big wheels such as those in R-Design trim. Instead, going for an Inscription model should result in a more smooth driving experience thanks to the smaller wheels and greater amount of rubber between you and the road. When it comes to low running costs, plug-in hybrid models are the best option, provided you can charge the car regularly.

Charge regularly and do lots of short trips and a plug-in hybrid can cost very little to fuel, though if you do a large number of long journeys, you're better off sticking with a much cheaper diesel model or a conventional petrol. That's because you'll get little fuel economy benefit from lugging around the heavy electric motor and battery pack of the plug-in hybrid without charge - especially on faster roads.

VOLVO S60 BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Porsche Macan

Our pick Porsche Macan 3.0 S
Used deals from £34,899

When it comes to desirable cars, what could be more premium than an upmarket SUV and one with a Porsche badge to boot? The Macan mixes performance, style, practicality and quality in a way few other cars can match. Porsche offers a broad range of engines and trims to suit a variety of drivers. Families might want to look at entry-level petrol models or diesel versions as these should have the lowest running costs. Porsche stopped making the diesel in 2018, so if you want one, you'll need to look at older Macan models.

Meanwhile, if you want your Porsche SUV to prioritise the Porsche side over the SUV side, then you might want to consider the high-performance Macan S or GTS. These are very fast cars indeed but retain many of the features that buyers like about the Macan, such as being able to fit five adults into the cabin, which is supremely stylish. Porsche updated the Macan in 2019 and 2021 with subtle tweaks to the styling and in the case of the most recent changes, a redesign of the dashboard.

PORSCHE MACAN BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Lexus RC

Our pick Lexus RC 300h F-Sport
Used deals from £21,980

Shopping for a stylish but comfortable coupe and like your cars to be unusual and look distinctive? The Lexus RC is a great option. Look at the RC's chiselled lines and you may expect it to be a popular choice, but the truth is that alternatives such as the BMW 4 Series and Audi A5 are such a default option for some drivers that few properly consider an alternative.

If you plan on using your car for big annual mileages or keeping it for a number of years, then the RC is a sensible choice. This is because it comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty which can be extended for 12 months at a time all the way up to 10 years or 100,000 miles if you service your car at a Lexus garage.

This kind of cover is pretty much the best available as almost no other manufacturer comes close to matching it, with only a few offering seven years of cover. Another simple option with the RC is which engine to go for. The hybrid petrol-electric versions are the most common type of RC, the best for fuel economy and this format suits the car's relaxed feel.

LEXUS RC BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Infiniti Q50

Our pick Infiniti Q50 2.2d Sport
Used deals from £10,990

Infiniti isn’t well known in the UK, which is ironic because it is a sister brand to Nissan, which is one of a very small number of car makers that actually produce cars in the UK. The Q50 was the Japanese brand’s attempt at an upmarket saloon car. Infiniti may no longer sell new cars in the UK, but that's no reason not to get a used one, as these premium cars can be quite affordable in second-hand form compared with equivalents from more established brands.

The Q50 excelled at being a quiet motorway cruiser, being easy on the eye and coming with a substantial amount of equipment as standard. The only real slight let-down is the cabin, which isn’t as well designed as those from BMW or Audi. If you can make peace with the interior, though, the Q50 is a cracking car, especially with either the 2.1-litre diesel (confusingly badged as a 2.2d) or the 3.5-litre hybrid, as these offer very good fuel economy.

8. Volvo V90

Our pick Volvo V90 T8 Inscription Plus
Used deals from £18,290

The Volvo V90 is a big-booted upmarket estate car that majors on comfort and space. It also impresses on the safety front, as this Volvo has a full five-star crash test safety rating awarded by safety experts Euro NCAP. More than this, it is a plush, comfortable and stylish machine, making it a desirable premium alternative to cars from Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Supremely supportive seats and smooth suspension set it apart from the German rivals, which typically have firmer suspension and provide a sharper drive.

The cabin is the V90's best feature and there is the choice between dark and light colour themes and wood and metal trims. While many cars of this size go for a sporty look with dark seats and metal trim, light leather and warm wood suits the V90 very well and makes it feel even more premium.

VOLVO V90 BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

Read more about:

Latest best cars & vans

  1. Cars with top tethers for child seats

  2. Best cars for four car seats

  3. Cheapest five-door cars